Cultural Currents and Ethical Bridges

By: Colin Steele

September 30, 2014

I was drawn to the Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs certificate program while in the process of changing my major during my junior year abroad. After two years of mostly theoretical study of international affairs, my experiences in Turkey and Ireland convinced me that nobody confronts the world strictly as a realist, a liberal internationalist, or a constructivist. We are all moved by much deeper and stronger currents of culture, history, and belief—often in ways we do not even appreciate.

Of course, cultural perspectives and religious commitments are played out in international affairs, too. Studying both religion and world affairs—especially through the lens of ethics—gave me a better grounding in my own beliefs as well as the tools to analyze others' commitments and approach them in their own contexts.

That was fantastic preparation for a year after college as a Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest/AmeriCorps volunteer, during which time a Native friend and mentor explained his religious views to me and said, "You volunteers are not going to convert me to anything, but I really appreciate that you all come here from all over the country and see how we live."

In my current work in the office of the Vice President for Global Engagement here at Georgetown, I am confronted every day by the intricacies of engaging with colleagues' and partners' perspectives, desires, and motivations—whether from across campus or across the globe. Everyone brings something to the table; no matter what that is, I try to help construct ethical bridges across religious and political divides. As my Native friend indicated, people value being understood more than being convinced.

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Cultural Currents and Ethical Bridges